|General background: Bolivia, named after independence
fighter Simon BOLIVAR, broke away from Spanish rule
in 1825; much of its subsequent history has consisted
of a series of nearly 200 coups and counter-coups. Comparatively
democratic civilian rule was established in the 1980s,
but leaders have faced difficult problems of deep-seated
poverty, social unrest, and drug production. Current
goals include attracting foreign investment, strengthening
the educational system, continuing the privatization
program, and waging an anticorruption campaign.
Area comparative: Slightly less than three
times the size of Montana
with altitude; humid and tropical to cold and semiarid
Terrain: Rugged Andes Mountains with a highland
plateau (Altiplano), hills, lowland plains of the Amazon
Population: 8,445,134 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Quechua 30%, Mestizo (mixed
white and Amerindian ancestry) 30%, Aymara 25%, White
Religions: Roman Catholic 95%, Protestant
Language: Spanish (official), Quechua (official),
Government type: Republic
Capital: La Paz (seat of government); Sucre
(legal capital and seat of judiciary)
Legal system: Based on Spanish law and Napoleonic
Code; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Economic overview: Bolivia, long one of the
poorest and least developed Latin American countries,
has made considerable progress toward the development
of a market-oriented economy. Successes under President
SANCHEZ DE LOZADA (1993-97) included the signing of
a free trade agreement with Mexico and becoming an
associate member of the Southern Cone Common Market
(Mercosur), as well as the privatisation of the state
airline, telephone company, railroad, electric power
company, and oil company. Growth slowed in 1999, in
part due to tight government budget policies, which
limited needed appropriations for anti-poverty programs,
and the fallout from the Asian financial crisis. In
2000, major civil disturbances in April, and again
in September and October, held down overall growth
to 2.5%. Bolivia's GDP failed to grow in 2001 due
to the global slowdown and laggard domestic activity.
Growth is expected to pick up in 2002, but the fiscal
deficit and debt burden will remain high.
Communication/Telephone system: New subscribers
face bureaucratic difficulties; most telephones are
concentrated in La Paz and other cities; mobile cellular
telephone use expanding rapidly, primary trunk system,
which is being expanded, employs digital microwave
radio relay; some areas are served by fiber-optic
cable; mobile cellular systems are being expanded.
Internationally, satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat
Places of interest: Bolivia may be one of the
poorest countries in South America, but its cultural
wealth, the mindblowing Andean landscapes and the
remnants of mysterious ancient civilizations make
it the richest and most exciting destination for adventurous
and independent travelers.
Travel Tips: The Chapare and Yungas regions
have been recent targets of coca eradication campaigns.
There have been reports of violence on both sides.
The area should be considered relatively unstable.
Travelers should consult their embassy prior to traveling
to assess the security risk. Serious incidents involving
the drugging and raping of tourists who've taken guided
jungle and pampas tours with independent guides around
Rurrenabaque have been reported. Female tourists should
avoid taking tours on their own - stick to larger
group tours run by reputable agencies. Avoid unlicensed
guides by asking to see la autorización.